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Lesson Plans for Cross-Curricular Thematic Instruction

A thematic reading curriculum is. . . .

by MaryEllen Vogt PDF

by J. David Cooper PDF

What is the "Indigenous Folksong Reading Curriculum"

The Integration of Literacy, Music, and Technology into the classroom

An example of building a thematic unit is much like being a collector. You and the children will be gathering the indigenous playground poetry your class uses everyday. Then you'll learn about it so you can share these sources with others interested in your work/play.

You can plan this all by yourself, get the other teachers in the school involved - make it interdisciplinary, and cross curricular, involve students naturally. Children's indigenous playground poetry has enormous value and credibility as the basis for the language arts curriculum that sets the planning process in motion. This is the literature foundation so fundamental to the success of thematic teaching and your enthusiasm.

1) Literature
Having as many primary source materials you can collect is firsthand information. The general rule of thumb is that there can never have too many songs and chants collected.

2) Integration
Sharing what the students bring into the room, they already know all the literature by heart!! It is an AUTHENTIC experience that you can share.

Next, students might enjoy working in groups to write their poetry into their personal books. This project leads into their weekly spelling tests.

This literature leads the way into art projects and content-area connections. Using a combination of music, art, and technology, whole-class, small-group, paired, and individual tasks.

Planned integration occurs when the teacher sets the stage for an interdisciplinary experience. Mindful of curricular objectives the teacher balances what "needs to be covered" with what naturally develops out of children's enthusiastic curiosity and willingness to participate.

Flexibility is central, as teachers reconfigure the traditional scope and sequence of the curriculum in new ways, integrating literacy, music, and technology. Now the subject-area textbooks are viewed as just another tool, rather than as the sole decision maker for instruction. The outcome, however, is generally a more comprehensive curriculum, filled with extensive learning experiences, rather than the former minimal content considered necessary for basic mastery, which is the beauty of and why we use a thematic reading curriculum.

thematic instruction, classroom instruction, cross-curricular

3. Collaboration

Thematic teaching, it should be readily apparent, is labor-intensive. It takes extra time to replace lessons based strictly on textbooks or workbooks with something new.

4. Community Resources

A vital component is making a real-world connection for students. Parents can play an important role in sharing their experience and expertise.

5) Time

It takes time to plan thematic units, and the units themselves generally last several weeks. Because the learning is integrated and collaborative, momentum builds and sustains motivation. Thus the topic can be explored both in its breadth and depth.

6) Empowerment

Despite the fact that empowerment has become somewhat of a buzzword, it is a real factor in thematic classrooms where teachers have consciously chosen to teach in a new way. In particular, thematic teaching challenges both over reliance on textbooks and the compartmentalized school day and its subjects.


Visit the classroom of someone involved in thematic teaching. Often one can hear the excitement in the hall, as singing and art projects spill out of classroom.

Languages' rhythm and language acquisition

Read More "Dialect Speakers Revisited"
John R. Rickford (Linguistics, Stanford University) and
Angela E. Rickford (Education, San Jose State University) Published in Linguistics and Education, 7.2:107-128 (1995). [Special issue on "Dialects and Education"]
According to Stewart (p. 172), in 1965 a 12-year old AAVE speaker named Lenora who was normally a problem reader happened to see the dialect version in his typewriter, and when she began to read it, "her voice was steady, her word reading accurate, and her sentence intonation . . . natural." However, when he asked her to read the original SE version for comparison, "all the 'problem reader' behaviors returned." Stewart argued (ibid) that "this unplanned experiment (later duplicated with other inner-city children) suggested an entirely different dimension of possible reading problems" for inner city African American children than those focused on by such methods as i.t.a. [initial teaching alphabet] and phonics--that of structural interference between their native AAVE and the SE which they are invariably given to read. And, as he asked rhetorically (p. 173):

Journal of Research in Music Education 35, 4: 221-235.
This is the article which I was referring to, which compared alternative methods of teaching rhythm. Second and third graders were divided into four groups -- a control group, a group which used Kodaly syllables, a group which used Gordon syllables, and a group which used meaningful words, such as "Washington" and "Mississippi." The four groups were pre-tested and post-tested on recognition, dictation, and performance. The most significant finding was that the Washington-Mississippi group scored best in the performance post-test.

What do Whole - Language teachers and Music teachers have to learn from one another?
While music reading and writing skills are quite different from language reading and writing skills, the early development of musical literacy can also be a powerful tool in developing language literacy. Studies have shown that the study of music increases academic achievement on a number of different fronts, including language writing skills. This seems to support the idea that the development of music and language literacy in our students may mutually reinforce each other. Perhaps the differences between the skills of reading and writing music and language are not as great as they appear at first glance.

Kids need the playground just as much as the classroom. Having fun builds bigger, better brains, says Bryant Furlow.

Article: Integrate Music and Reading


National Children's Folksong Repository

Study Ties Mental Abilities To Interaction of Emotion and Cognitive Skills

"Every child will listen to the Barney song and sing it back again without prompting," says Robert Zatorre, a neuropsychologist at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University. "This is very different from an activity like reading, where exposure alone won't do anything, no matter how long you sit in front of a book." Such talent, however, may not be too far removed from the abilities that enable an infant to learn to speak. Language and music are both forms of communication that rely on highly organized variations in sound pitches, stress, and rhythm. Both are rich in "harmonics": the overtones above the primary frequency of a sound that give it resonance and purity. In language, sounds are combined into patterns--words--that refer to something other than themselves. This makes it possible for us to communicate complexities of information and meaning far beyond the capabilities of other species. But notes, chords, and melodies lack explicit meanings. So why does music exist? Is our appreciation of it a biological universal, or a cultural creation? Why does it have such power to stir our emotions? Does music serve some adaptive purpose, or is it nothing more than an exquistiely pointless epiphenomenon -- like a talent for chess, or the ability to taste the overtones of plum or vanilla in a vintage wine?

"In Western society we're inclined to think of music as something extra," says Sandra Trehub, a developmental psychologist at the University of Toronto. "But you can't find a culture that doesn't have music. Everybody is listening."